Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy Children's Day!

Children's Day is celebrated in Mexico on April the 30th. The celebration leading to "Children's month" generally starts around March the 21sth, when the Spring solstice and the Anniversary of Benito Juarez (Mexico's first indigenous president) is celebrated with pre-school age children parading around the streets wearing flower crowns and leis. When I was young I didn't like that tradition, mostly because my mother would make a lei for me out of straw flowers that made my neck itch!

During the 1970's, when I was in grammar school in Mexico City, the tradition began to get more commercial. Toy stores and TV commercials advertised toys and special sales leading to Children's day. Yet, my most cherished memories of this holiday had nothing to do with material things...but the gesture behind them. On April the 30th school aged children would get most of the day off from school. After a few lessons the teachers were in charge of entertaining their students for most of the day. We would go on field trips and receive lots of candy. Some times the teachers staged ridiculous plays where cross-dressing was encouraged.

When I was on fifth grade my friends and I snuck out of school during the children's day festivities. We ran to a near by Sanborns (a chain store that sold gifts, magazines and candy) and joined our resources to buy our favorite teacher a present. I remember running and laughing on our way back to school while complete strangers wished us a happy children's day. Back in school our teacher was waiting for us...she was not mad, but worried. She was waiting for us with small gifts she had made: colorful personalized name plaques made out of melted crayons. She had made one for every single kid in her class! We exchanged gifts and had a great day. Thad day made an impression on me. Up to this day I still imagine a young woman late at night, melting crayons and painfully applying them to dozens of little name plaques. The image above is from a new textile design. I made the design out of scraps pieces of paper and recycled materials. I think my 5th grade teacher would be proud.

I always found it sad that we don't have a specific day reserved to celebrate children, or childhood here in the US. Fairly recenlty, George Bush made a proclamation that made June the 3rd "National Child's Day" but that never really caught up. What I find even sadder is that the US is one of only two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (the other one is Somalia). The US is an incredibly youth centered culture. American kids have access to movies, amusement parks, summer camps, TV shows and many priviledges that other cultures don't really get tp experience. Maybe a holiday for children is not really necessary here. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More on square schematics and boxy houses

Below are some images from Casa Barragan, the former home of architect Luis Barragan in Mexico City. It is now a museum and UNESCO heritage site.

The way Barragan used light gave his home an airy and contemporary feeling. After more than 60 years the house looks like it could have been built yesterday, yet the house dates back to 1947.

Barragan took the "essence" of Mexican architecture (Mesoamerican temples, haciendas, thick adobe walls) and condensed it into a simple design where squares are a reccuring element.

Barragan's use of color and the relationship with the outdoors is dramatic. The following image reminds me of paintings by Rufino Tamayo (also pictured below: "La Gran Galaxia"). Tamayo used to say that his roots and colors were Mexican, but his concept was universal. Maybe the same proves true for Barragan's designs...

The concept of "sacred geometry" and other philosophical elements also play a part in Barragan's designs, making them modern but also warm and inviting. I find this house very inspiring...I hope you enjoyed the pictures! Click here if you want to learn more about Luis Barragan

Friday, April 24, 2009

Textile design repeats

For several years I've been keeping visual journals. Even if they are just small notebooks or formal bound books, journals have been useful for jotting down ideas, color combinations or just doodles. Using these doodles as inspiration I've begun to design fabric patterns!

An interesting challenge I've encounter while designing fabric is the need to create designs that will look good in repeat, so the material can be printed in a continuous flow without any apparent breaks in the design. The image above is from a design that follows square schematics, a simple composition I called "Mi Pueblito" (my little town). Here is the same design in a simple square repeat:

Neat, hu? It is looking more like a city! Other more complex repeats can be achieved by mirrowing the image (placing it upside down) or following a half-drop pattern or a brick-like pattern. I would love to create more interesting non-symmetrical designs once I understand this repeat concept better. I am really excited at the possibilities of making my sketches into something functional. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pineapples, textiles, dance...and cosmic forces

Tio Frumencio, an uncle on my mother's side had a pinapple plantation in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca. While on our way to Chiapas my family used to stop and visit. I remember seeing endless fields of pinapples growing everywhere in this area. At that age I actualy didn't like pinapple that much since I found it too tart, but Loma Bonita's sweet yellow pinapple was not tart at all. Uncle frumencio was a very industrious man and had some of this pineapple canned, juiced and ready for export. Unfortunately Mexican pinapple was never famous here in the US, it was unable to compete with the more popular Hawaiian kind.

The image above comes from Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, via Flickr. It is from a Oaxacan dance known as "Flor de piña." According to Alejandro Montiel Coello the dance of the Pinapple flower is full of symbolic ritual meaning related to fertility. The dance begins when a young woman lavishly dressed in fine textiles picks up a pineapple from the floor and begins to dance. She is barefoot, and performs very slow movements: she slowly spins, at times she raises the fruit and presents it to the sun, or some times she rocks it like a baby. Other dancers join, and carry pinapples on their shoulders. The fruit is some times decorated with ribbons, and are eventually given to the audience.

So, how is this dance related to cosmic forces? "Latin" dance doesn't have to be fast - the movements of the dancers mimic the movement of the planets in relation to the sun. Oaxacans thank the sun and remind us that everything we do in this planet comes in cycles: birth, death, seasons, life. I wish you a happy earth day!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Little chicks

I created this little guys for the Spring bazaar at Galeria de la Raza. Have a great Spring everyone!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Paper Judas inspiration

The Saturday before Easter people in Mexico used to burn paper mache figures called "Judas". I still remember street vendors selling crazy looking mini judas figures at the main plaza in Coyoacan. The Judas pictured above hangs at Bazaar del Sabado, a fancy crafts market in Mexico City.

Muralist Diego Rivera was a collector of Judas figures. His main supplier was a humble woman named Carmen Caballero. Carmen was a "Judera" extraordinaire. She made her creations out of wire, reeds, newspaper and brown paper bags. Rivera loved Caballero's natural talent. He would hang her creations all over his studio. His wife Frida Kahlo would even dress them in her old clothes. Rivera claimed that sculptor Henry Moore's modernistic sculptures were inspired by Carmen's Judas, after Moore saw them during a visit to his studio. What do you think? Does the winged devil pictured above looks like a modernistic sculpture?

If you want to read more about Judas figures visit Papier Mache UK. They feature an article I wrote about paper mache and ephemeral art.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cafe latte foam art

I'm sure it takes a lot of practice to develop cafe latte art quickly, especially while people are waiting for their coffee fix. Talented baristas can make hearts, ferns, rosettes and spider webs out of foam, among other images. Heres' a perfect sun and some pre-easter foam bunnies for you, images via Quazen